Success continues to grow for Allentown girls’ XC program

The Allentown High School girls' cross-country team celebrates winning the Mercer County Championships on Oct. 25 at Washington Crossing Park.

The 2019 season brought more breakthrough moments that the Allentown High School girls’ cross-country team has produced in the history of the program.

From winning the program’s first Mercer County championship to going a perfect 13-0 in regular season competitions, the Redbirds continued to grow their success over the past few seasons in 2019.

“A lot of goals were accomplished this season,” said coach Rick Smith. “Our girls knew coming into the fall that this could be a special season. They put in the hard work to achieve most of our lofty goals this year. We had a ton of success from start to finish.”

After coming in second last year at the Mercer County Championships, Allentown was focused on getting over the hump and winning its school’s first team cross-country county –boys and girls– title ever on Oct. 25 at Washington Crossing Park in Titusville.

Allentown faced the tough task of dethroning West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, which had won the last six county titles, and fending off its rival West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North to finish atop of the team standings.

Thanks to five runners placing in the Top-20 of the race, Allentown was able to take home its first ever county championship by beating out both West Windsor-Plainsboro schools.

“To finally get it done, shows that hard work can pay off,” Smith said. “WWP South has been a monster the last decade. The girls set their minds to working as hard they could to get us over the hump. What you put into this sport is something you can take out of it to use in life. That’s why this sport is special.”

Sophomore Andie Murray ran in for the best time individual time at the county meet for the Redbirds, crossing the finish line with a time of 19:50 for sixth place in the meet.

Murray’s fourth place at the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 championships at Thompson Park in Jamesburg on Nov. 9 led the Allentown to placing second at sectionals for the third straight year.

Colts Neck High School won the sectional team title by having five runners place in the top 10 of the race.

At the Group 3 championships at Holmdel Park on Nov. 16, Murray dashed past Rampao High School’s Lauren Judd to finish fifth in the race with a time of 19:31, giving her top-six finishes in the county, sectional and state meets.

Senior Jamie Crowe also had a huge season this fall for Allentown.

Crowe finished eighth at both the county meet and sectional championships to give Allentown two runners in the top 10 for each race.

The senior placed 45th at the Group 3 championship race.

The key to Allentown winning its first ever cross-country county title was the running of Daniela Etzel, Isabella Walker, Suzanne Zaugg and Angelina Scotto.

Etzel and Walker ran past the finish line back-to-back for 11th and 12th place finishes for the Redbirds, while Zaugg beat out WWP South’s Ananya Devpura by a second to place 15th. All three ran personal bests in the meet.

Smith was very impressed by the leadership and effort that Crowe, Etzel, Walker and Zaugg put out on the trail this season as seniors for Allentown. Especially Etzel and Zaugg, who both stepped up a lot this fall to help the team have another successful season.

Scotto worked hard to place 20th to help put Allentown over the hump and win the county championship.

As a team, Allentown finished sixth at the Group 3 championships. Murray placed 35th in a hard-fought effort at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions, after finishing 58th in the meet last year.

With the team continuing to make strides each season and Murray coming back next fall to lead the way, Smith believes even more success will come Allentown’s way in the future.

“We have the potential next season to be just as good or better than this past season,” Smith said. “I think we have girls coming back that can have great seasons for us. We’re going to have a good sound team coming back next year.”

This fall was a historic one overall for the Allentown cross-country program.

Liam Murphy became the school’s first winner –boy and girl– at the Meet of Champions state race on Nov. 23 at Holmdel Park. He ran crossed first with a time of 15:23.

He will now bid to win a national championship and earn All-America status on Dec. 14 when he competes in the Foot Locker Cross-Country National Championships in San Diego.

Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports